Do we know where the UK is heading?

As we start another month on the road from the referendum to the date that the UK is supposed to leave the EU, are things any clearer?

The answer to that is a pretty unequivocal “Maybe!” It’s not just May, Johnson, Davis et al that bring “Talking Heads” to mind! Remember “The Road To Nowhere”?

It is certain that arriving at a deal with the EU isn’t the walk in the park that we were promised. The first stages of negotiations aren’t yet complete and they sit on a knife edge.

But even now it is clear that there will be large groups of UK and EU27 citizens that are not included in the protections currently being negotiated, including:

  • People who are not protected because they do not qualify as residents.
  • We don’t even know whether UK citizens living in EU countries will retain freedom of movement or just be given a right to remain in the country where they currently reside.
  • How will the people of Gibraltar be affected post-Brexit?

This is an area where we have started work with our legal team, both on identifying the groups affected and what recourse those groups may have. Both the EU Parliament and the HoL EU Committee have concluded that the primary means of protecting EU rights currently being exercised would be in a comprehensive withdrawal agreement, so the current situation is not reassuring.

On a rather more cheerful note, EU law remains fully enforceable until actual withdrawal, so any citizens’ rights elements in the withdrawal agreement must be compatible with the existing EU treaties, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. So people discriminated against in such an agreement would have recourse to EU law.

In the event of “no deal”, this is academic, but it’s encouraging to note that as things stand and as per the Three Knights Opinion, Parliament must approve a final withdrawal bill when the terms are known, and putting 29th March 2019 in the current bill as an EU departure date will not change that.

The impact of the UK leaving the EU on the UK and its citizens  brings us round to the farcical, but highly important, “now you see them, now you don’t” game being played out by David Davis & his Dept for Exiting the EU over the impact studies. Even the highly Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg is criticising the Government for trying to avoid complying with Parliament’s instructions.

Of course, what the situation with the impact studies highlights is that they do not exist in any serious quantitative or qualitative form.

We now have a Secretary of State at risk of being in contempt of Parliament and having to go before a select committee to explain himself.

The lack of regard the Government has for Parliament’s sovereignty is clear, and its wish to sideline Parliament is even clearer in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill and the other Brexit bill going through Parliament, the Trade Bill.

Both these Bills rely on extensive delegated powers (Henry VIII powers) being handed to ministers. It’s a reasonable assumption that the 8 other Brexit bills will contain similar Henry VIII powers.

The use of Henry VIII powers is not unusual, no piece of legislation can be expected to be perfect, certainly not one produced when there is no clear statement of where the UK is going and there are no impact statements on the effect of going to that unknown place.

It is the extent of the Henry VIII powers that the Government is giving itself that is the greatest concern. With these delegated powers being given to the Govt., Parliament’s sovereignty will be further eroded.

These extended powers could be used by this Govt., and future governments too, to wield a terrifying power to alter and/or abolish this or any other legislation: a power to ignore our elected Parliament and avoid its supervision and control.

This is not needed to legislate for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, where the main requirement is an understanding of what’s going on and what needs to go on. So what does the Govt. intend to use them for?

Ask your MP!

Ask what he/she is doing to ensure that Parliament has proper supervision and control over what the Govt. intends and that any Henry VIII powers are only those that are necessary and cannot be used to remove or modify fundamental citizenship rights or the fundamentals of the UK’s constitutional processes.

Ask your MP what he/she is doing to ensure that the impact of the UK leaving the EU is properly understood by Parliament and is in the Best Interest of the UK.

Ask your MP to back the amendment put forward by Dominic Grieve (amendment 7) which will provide a meaningful vote before the withdrawal bill can become law.


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Published by Grahame Pigney on behalf of The People’s Challenge Ltd.


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